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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Three sentenced for botched robbery

Prison sentences were handed out Thursday to three men whose robbery of a Yakima flower shop netted only a decorative wooden rose.

Defendants Armando Gutierrez-Morfin, 24, of Mabton, and Jose Antonio Martinez, 34, hometown unknown, pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery and were each sentenced to six years.

Getaway driver Alfredo Rivera, 30, of Grandview, received a lesser sentence of 2 1/2 years for his plea.

The case stemmed from a holdup on Oct. 29 that unfolded when two men entered Shirley’s Flower Shop on North 16th Avenue, and began to look around, according to court records.

When one of the men approached the clerk with a decorative wooden rose, his companion pulled out a pistol and demanded money.

The clerk refused, leading to a brief discussion between the two men before they fled in a waiting pickup truck. Police stopped the truck on Interstate 82 and arrested all three occupants. A pistol and the wooden rose were seized as evidence.

Deputy prosecutor Troy Clements said Gutierrez-Morfin and Martinez face additional robbery charges in Benton County. Further details were not immediately available.

In addition, Martinez is accused of being in the country illegally and faces deportation to Mexico after his release from prison.


Stimulus funding I-90 repaving

The stimulus package has reached Washington’s highways.

The state’s first federal stimulus-funded highway project got under way Thursday morning on a stretch of Interstate 90 near Ellensburg.

The $2.5 million repaving project, which will cover about 4 miles just west of Ellensburg, is funded entirely by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which Congress passed in February. It’s part of nearly $500 million in federal stimulus funds set aside for 181 state and local highway projects in Washington.

“This is the first one we have begun actual construction on,” said Paula Hammond, director of the state Department of Transportation.

According to the department, the project near Ellensburg will provide 25 jobs and be completed by late summer.

“Our asphalt contractors say the economy has slowed so much for them … that they really have been losing jobs and relying on more state and local projects to keep them going,” Hammond said.

She was joined for a project kickoff Thursday morning by Ellensburg Mayor Nancy Lillquist at University Auto Center on the western edge of Ellensburg.

Don Whitehouse, who runs the Transportation Department’s south-central region; Ray Opiela of Columbia Asphalt, the Yakima company hired to do the work; state Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island; and Mark Anderson of Ellensburg’s Anderson Hay and Grain also spoke at the event.

“I-90 impacts all aspects of life here in Ellensburg, from education to recreation to commerce,” Lillquist said. “Without I-90, our residents and businesses suffer. I-90 is our lifeline.”

The project that began Thursday is designed to maintain that lifeline, making the highway smoother and safer while increasing its lifespan, Hammond said. And it’s only the beginning; $55 million in stimulus funding is scheduled for Interstate 90 from Ellensburg to Snoqualmie Pass, she said.

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